New iPhone brings face recognition (and fears) to masses

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Apple will let you unlock the iPhone X with your face – a move likely to bring facial recognition to the masses.

But along with the roll out of the technology, are concerns over how it could be used.

Despite Apple’s safeguards, privacy activists fear the widespread use of facial recognition would ‘normalise’ the technology.

This could open the door to broader use by law enforcement, marketers or others of a largely unregulated tool, creating a ‘surveillance technology that is abused’.

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Facial recognition could open the door to broader use by law enforcement, marketers or others of a largely unregulated tool, creating a 'surveillance technology that is abused', experts have warned. Pictured is the iPhone X, which uses Face ID

Facial recognition could open the door to broader use by law enforcement, marketers or others of a largely unregulated tool, creating a 'surveillance technology that is abused', experts have warned. Pictured is the iPhone X, which uses Face ID

Facial recognition could open the door to broader use by law enforcement, marketers or others of a largely unregulated tool, creating a ‘surveillance technology that is abused’, experts have warned. Pictured is the iPhone X, which uses Face ID

HOW APPLE’S FACE ID WORKS 

Face ID uses a TrueDepth front-facing camera on the iPhone X, which has multiple components. 

A Dot Projector projects more than 30,000 invisible dots onto your face to map its structure.

The dot map is then read by an infrared camera and the structure of your face is relayed to the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone X, where it is turned into a mathematical model. 

The A11 chip then compares your facial structure to the facial scan stored in the iPhone X during the setup process. 

Face ID uses infrared to scan your face, so it works in low lighting conditions and in the dark. 

It will only unlock your device when you look in the direction of the iPhone X with your eyes open.

Face ID captures both a 3-D and 2-D image of your face using infrared light while you’re looking straight at the camera.  

Five unsuccessful attempts at Face ID will force you to enter a passcode – which you’ll need anyway just to set up facial recognition. 

That requires you to come up with a secure string of digits – or, for extra security, a string of letters and numbers – to protect your privacy.

Face ID also adapts to changes in your appearance over time, so it will continue to recognise you as you grow a beard or grow your hair longer.

Apple’s $999 (£999) iPhone X, set to go on sale November 3, is designed to be unlocked with a facial scan with a number of privacy safeguards – as the data will only be stored on the phone and not in any databases.

Unlocking your phone with a face scan may offer added convenience and security for iPhone users, according to Apple, which claims its ‘neural engine’ for FaceID cannot be tricked by a photo or hacker.

While other devices have offered facial recognition, Apple is the first to pack the technology allowing for a three-dimensional scan into a hand-held phone.

‘Apple has done a number of things well for privacy but it’s not always going to be about the iPhone X,’ said Jay Stanley, a policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union.

‘There are real reasons to worry that facial recognition will work its way into our culture and become a surveillance technology that is abused.’

A study last year by Georgetown University researchers found nearly half of all Americans in a law enforcement database that includes facial recognition, without their consent.

Civil liberties groups have sued over the FBI’s use of its ‘next generation’ biometric database, which includes facial profiles, claiming it has a high error rate and the potential for tracking innocent people.

‘We don’t want police officers having a watch list embedded in their body cameras scanning faces on the sidewalk,’ said Mr Stanley.

Clare Garvie – the Georgetown University Law School associate who led the 2016 study on facial recognition databases – agreed that Apple is taking a responsible approach but others might not.

‘My concern is that the public is going to become inured or complacent about this,’ Ms Garvie said.

Widespread use of facial recognition ‘could make our lives more trackable by advertisers, by law enforcement and maybe someday by private individuals,’ she said.

The Face ID system uses a number of technologies to ensure it recognises its user. This includes an infrared camera to see in the dark and an ambient light sensor

The Face ID system uses a number of technologies to ensure it recognises its user. This includes an infrared camera to see in the dark and an ambient light sensor

The Face ID system uses a number of technologies to ensure it recognises its user. This includes an infrared camera to see in the dark and an ambient light sensor

Shanghai and other Chinese cities have recently started deploying facial recognition to catch those who flout the rules of the road, including jaywalker

Shanghai and other Chinese cities have recently started deploying facial recognition to catch those who flout the rules of the road, including jaywalker

Shanghai and other Chinese cities have recently started deploying facial recognition to catch those who flout the rules of the road, including jaywalker

Apple senior vice president Philip Schiller shows the FaceID system which is being used on new iPhone X, allowing a user to unlock the device with a scan of the face

Apple senior vice president Philip Schiller shows the FaceID system which is being used on new iPhone X, allowing a user to unlock the device with a scan of the face

Apple senior vice president Philip Schiller shows the FaceID system which is being used on new iPhone X, allowing a user to unlock the device with a scan of the face

PRIVACY CONCERNS

A study last year by Georgetown University researchers found nearly half of all Americans in a law enforcement database that includes facial recognition, without their consent.

Shanghai and other Chinese cities have recently started deploying facial recognition to catch those who flout the rules of the road, including jaywalkers.

Facial recognition and related technologies can also be used by retail stores to identify potential shoplifters, and by casinos to pinpoint undesirable gamblers.

It can even be used to deliver personalised marketing messages – and could have some other potentially unnerving applications.

Ms Garvie said her research found significant errors in law enforcement facial recognition databases, opening up the possibility someone could be wrongly identified as a criminal suspect.

Another worry, she said, is that police could track individuals who have committed no crime simply for participating in demonstrations.

Shanghai and other Chinese cities have recently started deploying facial recognition to catch those who flout the rules of the road, including jaywalkers.

Facial recognition and related technologies can also be used by retail stores to identify potential shoplifters, and by casinos to pinpoint undesirable gamblers.

It can even be used to deliver personalised marketing messages – and could have some other potentially unnerving applications.

Last year, a Russian photographer figured out how to match the faces of porn stars with their social media profiles to ‘doxx’ them, or reveal their true identities.

The iPhone X will be available in space grey and silver, and ships on November 3. Pictured is Phil Schiller on stage during the presentation

The iPhone X will be available in space grey and silver, and ships on November 3. Pictured is Phil Schiller on stage during the presentation

The iPhone X will be available in space grey and silver, and ships on November 3. Pictured is Phil Schiller on stage during the presentation

This type of use ‘can create huge problems,’ said Ms Garvie. ‘We have to consider the worst possible uses of the technology.’

Apple’s system uses 30,000 infrared dots to create a digital image which is stored in a ‘secure enclave,’ according to a white paper issued by the company on its security.

It said the chances of a ‘random’ person being able to unlock the device are one in a million, compared with one in 50,000 for its TouchID.

To unlock the phone, users can use facial recognition, which Apple calls Face ID. It will 'learn' your face, so every time you glance at the iPhone, it detects your face - even in the dark

To unlock the phone, users can use facial recognition, which Apple calls Face ID. It will 'learn' your face, so every time you glance at the iPhone, it detects your face - even in the dark

To unlock the phone, users can use facial recognition, which Apple calls Face ID. It will ‘learn’ your face, so every time you glance at the iPhone, it detects your face – even in the dark

Facial recognition is used at an automated ePassport gate at the British border of the Eurostar at the Gare du Nord rail station in Paris

Facial recognition is used at an automated ePassport gate at the British border of the Eurostar at the Gare du Nord rail station in Paris

Facial recognition is used at an automated ePassport gate at the British border of the Eurostar at the Gare du Nord rail station in Paris

Apple’s FaceID is likely to touch off fresh legal battles about whether police can require someone to unlock a device.

FaceID ‘brings the company deeper into a legal debate’ that stemmed from the introduction of fingerprint identification on smartphones, according to ACLU staff attorney Brett Max Kaufman.

Mr Kaufman says in a blog post that courts will be grappling with the constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches and self-incrimination if a suspect is forced to unlock a device.

US courts have generally ruled that it would violate a user’s rights to give up a passcode because it is ‘testimonial’ – but that situation becomes murkier when biometrics are applied.

Apple appears to have anticipated this situation by allowing a user to press two buttons for two seconds to require a passcode, but Ms Garvie said court battles over compelling the use of FaceID are likely.

THE IPHONE X 

– $999 (£999 in the UK) price for 64GB version, and $1,149 (£1,149 in the UK) for the 256GB version

– Pronounced the ‘iPhone 10’

– Comes with 64GB and 256GB models

– Pre-orders opened on Friday; will ship on November 3

– No home button – swipe up from the bottom to unlock or to go home from an app or to multitask

– ‘Face ID’ that allows users to unlock the phone by looking at it

– Qi and AirPower wireless charging that lets you charge multiple devices at once

– ‘Screen tap’ unlock 

– Edge to edge display with glass on both sides of the device

– Super retina display using OLED technology – highest ever pixel density in an iPhone

– Dual 12 megapixel cameras and dual-optical image stabilization

– Tuned for augmented reality capabilities

– Portrait lighting that uses machine learning to touch up photos

– A11 bionic chips with six cores, can be 70 per cent faster than the previous A10 chip

Regardless of these concerns, Apple’s introduction is likely to bring about widespread use of facial recognition technology.

‘What Apple is doing here will popularise and get people more comfortable with the technology,’ said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, who follows the sector.

‘If I look at Apple’s track record of making things easy for consumers, I’m optimistic users are going to like this.’

Ms Garvie added it is important to have conversations about facial recognition because there is little regulation governing the use of the technology.

‘The technology may well be inevitable,’ she said.

‘It is going to become part of everyone’s lives if it isn’t already.’

HOW THE IPHONE X COMPARES TO OTHER MODELS 
SpecificationiPhone XiPhone 8iPhone 8 PlusGalaxy Note 8Galaxy S8Galaxy S8 Plus
Display5.8 inches4.7 inches5.5 inches6.3 inches5.8 inches6.2 inches
Resolution2436 x 11251334 x 7501920 x 10802960 x 14402960 x 14402960 x 1440
ProcessorA11 BionicA11 BionicA11 BionicSnapdragon 835 (2.35GHz and 1.9GHz, octa-core)Snapdragon 835 (2.35GHz and 1.9GHz, octa-core)Snapdragon 835 (2.35GHz and 1.9GHz, octa-core)
RAM3GB 2GB3GB 6GB4GB4GB
Storage64GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB64GB, 128GB, 256GB64GB64GB
Rear camera12 megapixel, 12 megapixel (wide)12 megapixel12 megapixel, 12 megapixel (wide)12 megapixel, 12 megapixel (wide)12 megapixel12 megapixel
Front camera7 megapixel7 megapixel7 megapixel8 megapixel8 megapixel8 megapixel
Battery2,716mAh 1,821mAh 2,691mAh 3,300mAh3,000mAh3,500mAh
Water protectionIP67IP67IP67IP68IP68IP68
Weight0.38 pounds0.33 pounds0.45 pounds0.43 pounds0.34 pounds0.38 pounds
Dimensions (in.)5.65 x 2.79 x 0.305.45 x 2.65 x 0.296.24 x 3.07 x 0.306.40 x 2.94 x 0.345.86 x 2.68 x 0.316.28 x 2.88 x 0.31
Starting price$999$699.0$799.00$930$749.00$849.00
Misc.Face ID scannerWireless chargingWireless chargingS Pen, Iris scanner, USB-C, wireless chargingIris scanner, USB-C, wireless chargingIris scanner, USB-C, wireless charging

 

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